I’m so thankful for the young people God has brought into my life! This year was especially joyous since He led me back into teaching. Of course, when you’re involved with young folks, you end up going to plays, concerts, recitals, etc. Here’s a mini-photo journal of an event I attended a few weekends back: My school’s Junior/Senior Banquet, which was held in an elegant upper room of The Rhinecliff, overlooking the Hudson River . . .
Archives For May 2011
As a romantic suspense enthusiast from way back when, I jumped at the chance to check out Susan May Warren’s Love Inspired Suspense Series: Missions of Mercy. Susan’s a prolific author, but I’ve only read one of her books. So I was eager to see what she would bring to the table for the romantic suspense genre. Here are the pros and cons of what her LI series has to offer . . .
First, the pros:
- Exotic locations: check
- Heart-stopping suspense: check
- Plucky, resourceful heroines: check
- Tough heroes with big hearts: check
- Just the right amount of romance and humor as befits the danger: check
- Perfect length for me to finish while proctoring exams: check
- Strong inspirational themes: check
- For a bonus, these guys are ex-military: Two checks!
Now, the cons:
- As far as I could discover, she’s only published three in this series.
- Which definitely left me wanting more!
My favorite aspect of the Missions of Mercy Series is that the books are written from a Christian worldview. Kudos to Susan May Warren for making faith an integral part of her characters’ lives. And the spiritual issues they wrestle with are not superficial. They matter in the real world. As I wrote earlier this week, when the man with the gun facing down a relentless physical enemy can also operate in the spiritual realm–now that’s a great story!
The first book, Point of No Return, features Chet Stryker. Chet’s just your ordinary former Delta Force operative now running his own international security company, with a price on his head in Georgia—the country. His beautiful ex-flame Mae, a former military pilot, asks for his help rescuing her teenage nephew who’s been kidnapped in . . . Georgia, of course. And since Chet had been the one to dump Mae—totally to protect her from the dangers life at his side might hold—sparks fly when he decides to join her on her mission of mercy.
By the end of this book, Chet Stryker had become one of my favorite male characters. I loved his inner voice, sense of humor, and heroic spirit. Mae came across as both vulnerable and brave, a fascinating combination for a heroine.
The second book, Mission Out of Control, features Chet’s partner, Brody “Wick” Wickham, a former Green Beret turned security agent.
Wick’s mission is to protect the beautiful rock star Vonya, whose edgy performances shock his sensibilities. In spite of the animosity that springs up between them, Wick feels compelled to discover the real woman beneath the tawdry costumes—because Vonya has as many personas as she does names. Veronica is the proper senator’s daughter. Ronie is the humanitarian with a heart for children. And Ronyika is the vulnerable woman whose trust Wick seeks to win.
At the beginning of this story, I wasn’t sure I liked Ronie/Veronica/Vonya. So her character really brought home to me the theme that God’s acceptance is not based on the estimation of others but on how He sees us. No matter how wayward, we are His cherished children.
The third, and sadly last book, Undercover Pursuit, features Luke Dekker. Luke mistakes unassuming Scarlett Hanson for an undercover operative and drags her into his mission: to protect an agent named Lucia. Lucia is staging a wedding to quasi-criminal Benito in order to flush out his father, a ruthless human trafficker. Once Luke realizes Scarlett is not his contact, he tries to fix things, but complications soon abound.
I appreciated Scarlett the most of the three women protagonists. I enjoyed how she lost herself in the books she read and loosed the power of her imagination to help Luke out of a few tight spots. And the comedic elements of Luke and Scarlett’s story made me smile.
Follow this link to Susan May Warren’s Amazon Author’s page. (Maybe you can pick up all three books today!)
Now that you’ve read my review, you should definitely take the time to enter Susan’s giveaway. To celebrate the series, Susan is giving away a Missions of Mercy Prize Pack worth over $200! One grand prize winner will receive:
* A brand new FLIP HD Camera
* The entire Missions of Mercy series
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. You may enter once per email, facebook, and twitter. The contest ends on May 31st. Tell your friends! Winner will be announced on June 1st at the Litfuse Publicity site and at Susan May Warren’s website. (While you’re there, check out her rockin’ new website!)
About the author: Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of thirty novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.
A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you! She is also the founder of MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.
For more about Susan and her other books, please follow this link to visit her website.
***Thanks to Litfuse Public Relations for sending me these books to review for Susan’s blog tour. You can read what other reviewers are saying about the books here.
What have I been up to lately? Finishing the school marking period and squeezing in moments to write. Writing has become such a joy to me over the past few years. Actually, I’ve always been interested in writing but didn’t get serious about it until I lost my job. When the Christian school I’d ministered in for nineteen years closed in 2008, I found myself at loose ends and began to read books on the writing craft to pass the time. Within a few months, I’d written a mystery novel. (Not a good one!)
I began to explore the possibilities writing had to offer, started this blog, and joined American Christian Fiction Writers. After taking an online class, I revised my mystery novel and turned it into Inspirational Romantic Suspense. In March, I entered the first pages of my novel in the ACFW Genesis Contest–a competition for unpublished writers of inspirational fiction. Now I’m a finalist in the Inspirational Romantic Suspense category!
I plan to attend the ACFW Conference this September in St. Louis, where the contest winners will be announced. However, whether I win or not, being a Genesis finalist is one of the most encouraging signs I’ve received on my writing journey. And now that God has provided me this open door, I’m working to refine my manuscript so that I’ll have something exciting to share with the editors, agents, and publishers who attend the conference.
Why do I write?
Once someone asked me why I write when I could be doing other “more worthwhile” things. All I could think of was Eric Liddell’s explanation. When asked why he took time from Bible study and missionary work to run races, he said: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
I do feel a special communion with the Lord when I’m creating stories. So even if I never improve enough to be published, I’ll never stop writing—it’s too much a part of who God made me.
Why write stories which include a romantic thread? God, Himself, celebrates romance. He calls Christians His bride. He created courtship and marriage as way of wearing His heart on His sleeve. Each time we read of a noble man wooing his pure-of-heart bride, I believe we’re to be reminded of the One who pursues us. And God recorded romances in the Bible. I love the stories of Ruth and Rahab and the good men who loved and claimed them.
Why focus on suspense? I think I’m drawn to romantic suspense because when done well, the books present everyday, ordinary people rising to extraordinary challenges. Just like the background of war gives a male character a chance to prove himself a hero, a classic romantic suspense gives a young woman a chance to become a heroine. These stories show us at our best.
What I especially love about my genre: The Inspirational Romantic Suspense genre highlights the relationship between the two spheres Christians function in every day–the physical and the spiritual. These books showcase how the good vs. evil battle plays out in both worlds.
When the man with the gun facing down a relentless physical enemy can also operate in the spiritual realm—now that’s a great story!
Later this week, I’ll be reviewing a romantic suspense series by Christian author Susan May Warren. Be sure to come back and enter her blog tour contest!
Do you enjoy romantic suspense or comedic romantic suspense in your books and movies? What are your favorites? Here are a few of mine . . .
If there’s a young adult in your life, you can’t miss by introducing them to the talented mother/daughter writing team of Lydia and Heather Munn. Their debut novel How Huge the Night is a beautiful story of love and sacrifice among the teens in a small French village during World War II.
The main players in the story are Julien, Benjamin, Gustav, and Nina. Julien starts out with the typical goals, dreams, and fears of any fifteen-year-old boy. He resents being torn from his happy life in Paris to relocate to his father’s hometown. Even when his father explains his hope that the area is too rural and out of the way to interest the encroaching Nazis, Julien remains sullen and angry. However, God works in Julien’s heart through his grandfather’s godly wisdom, the circumstances of war, and the friendship he forges with the Jewish teen who boards with his family.
For the Jewish teens Benjamin, Gustav, and Nina, the war is a much different experience. While Julien wrestles with questions of conscience, these three struggle to survive. As the adults around them align themselves with either the freedom fighters or the Nazis, their lives depend on discerning who they can trust.
Here, the rich history of Julien’s town comes into play. The village had been founded by the Huguenots, who were seeking a haven from persecution, and soon the townspeople realize that they must be true to God and their heritage by welcoming any who flee to them for refuge–including Benjamin, Gustav, and Nina.
This book had all the elements I love in a story
- Depiction of setting and atmosphere that made me feel like I was there myself
- Events and struggles that drew me in
- Characters–not just the teens, but also key adults–who touched my heart
Some of the teen novels I’ve truly enjoyed (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Giver, etc.) were great stories and contained moral characters who made hard choices. But few of those heroes were born-again Christians who acted out of biblical principles.
Too often, classic novels portray all believers as weak or hypocritical or too heavenly-minded to do anyone much good. So I especially appreciated the strong spiritual themes in this book as the folks explored their Huguenot background and heeded what Scripture had to say. And—how refreshing—the pastor of the town was one of its heroes!
This book was based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon, the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust.
***Thanks to the folks at Litfuse Public Relations for providing a copy of the book for me to review. Read more reviews from the book tour here.
The Kindle edition of How Huge the Night is only $5 right now. Follow this link to check it out at Amazon.com.
About the authors:
Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in southern France where her parents were missionaries like their parents before them. She has a BA in literature from Wheaton College and now lives in a Christian intentional community in rural Illinois , where she and her husband, Paul, host free spiritual retreats for the poor, especially those transitioning out of homelessness or addiction. When not writing or hosting, she works on the communal farm.
Lydia Munn, daughter of missionary parents, grew up in Brazil. She received a BA in literature from Wheaton College , and an MA in Bible from Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions. With her husband, Jim, she has worked in church planting and Bible teaching since 1983, notably in St. Etienne, near the small town in the central mountains of France which forms the background of How Huge the Night. The Munns now live in Grenoble , France.
UPDATE: A winner has been emailed!
What do a former suicide bomber, a relief worker, and a special forces veteran have in common? They’re all trying to live out the call of Isa Masih in the war-torn land of Afghanistan. Not familiar with Isa Masih? You probably know Him by another name: Jesus the Messiah.
Jamil, Amy Mallory, and Steve Wilson are characters from Jeanette Windle’s novel Freedom’s Stand. In one way or another, these characters pay a high price for following Isa Masih. Though their story is a work of fiction, the lives and events depicted serve as vivid reminders of what our brothers and sisters in Christ are undergoing in a volatile part of the world.
Just last summer, we here in New York were reeling over the death of Dr. Tom Little, a Christian optometrist from my hometown, who had spent more than thirty years bringing medical care to remote parts of Afghanistan. One day while returning from an arduous trek to a small village, Dr. Tom, seven other foreign workers, and two Afghans, were gunned down by the Taliban. I didn’t know Dr. Tom as my older sisters did, but I saw how an event that happened half a world away affected many back here in the States.
Not only is Freedom’s Stand highly relevant. It’s also a story that can strengthen faith as it entertains. Therefore, I would label Freedom’s Stand a must-read.
However, be forewarned that it is not an easy book to experience. Oh, there’s nothing graphic or gratuitous within its pages. However, knowing how realistic the plight of the characters was made the story difficult to bear at times. I especially ached when reading about one young girl named Farah, who at age sixteen had come to believe that love was an illusion, no man could be trusted, and pain and heartache were a woman’s lot in life. I was left wondering, how many others in the world feel the same? And how can we help them hear about Christ?
How would I describe this story? Suspenseful. Riveting. Convicting. Hopeful. Why hopeful? Because in the end, the love of Isa Masih changes lives, renews hearts, and gives meaning to every sacrifice. A few of the characters even experience romance. Just enough to remind us that God puts the lonely in families and gives helpmeets to share the load as His children journey through life together—no matter where in the world that might be!
***Thanks to the Tyndale Blog Network for providing this book for me to review.
Now It’s Giveaway Time! I’m giving away my copy of Freedom’s Stand to one fortunate follower. (US and Canada only) Let me know two things in a comment. 1. That you’re interested in winning the book. 2. How you follow my blog–either through RSS feed, GFC, email, Facebook, Networked Blogs or twitter. The contest will run until Monday, May 23rd, at 11:59 pm, and I’ll announce a winner soon after.
(But, seriously, if you don’t win, you should treat yourself to this book!)
“Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”~Corrie ten Boom~
Luke 17:6: Jesus replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
Luke 21:1-4: As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
From I Kings 18: And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.
“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant.
And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said.
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”
Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
I’m thankful that “little is much when God is in it.” How about you?
I love all book genres which involve solving crimes: Romantic Suspense, Cozy Mysteries, Police Procedurals, Private Detective Novels. So it’s been great to discover that more and more Christian authors are delving into this area to provide top-notch mysteries enhanced by deeper faith messages. One such author is Mark Mynheir, who writes the Ray Quinn mysteries. Have you heard of Ray Quinn?
If you’re drawn to an angst-filled hero who hides his heart of gold behind wise cracks and a tough demeanor, you’ll love PI Ray Quinn, the protagonist of Mark Mynheir’s The Corruptible. Ray is a battered ex-homicide detective who was left both physically and mentally crippled by a recent trauma—a barrage of bullets that ruined his leg and killed his female partner (who was also his fiancee). Now medically retired, Ray hobbles around on a cane, numbs his pain and guilt with alcohol, and applies his quick wit to solving mysteries for paying clients.
Like any great PI, Ray has an entourage. His young partner Crevis Creighton provides the muscle to protect Ray and intimidate any bad guys they might provoke. Crevis wants to be a policeman but can’t pass the test. (He’s also not so great around dead bodies.) So Ray’s new best friend Pam Winters hangs out to tutor Crevis. Ray solved a case involving Pam’s brother, who was a pastor, and thus earned Pam’s gratitude and friendship.
One thing I really loved about this book was Ray’s relationship with Pam. Pam is a Bible-believing Christian, who shares Christ with Ray in a very natural manner. He listens to her and trusts her because she’s the one person in his life who has never let him down. Nothing romantic develops during this novel. But since this is only the second story featuring Ray, there’s always hope for future installments of his adventures!
Ray is many-faceted: he’s a lovably irascible friend, an alcoholic longing for redemption, and a detached, detail-driven detective. He kind of reminds me of these guys . . . (You knew this was coming, right?)
Here’s an excerpt from what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about The Corruptible:
“Funny exchanges between partners, impeccable action writing, and smooth pacing propel the narrative. The author knows the cop-and-investigation gig, but offers more, managing to be witty, insightful, and introspective. Throw away the cane, Mr. Quinn: you’ve got more cases to solve and a new audience that will knock you over to get to the next one.”
This book would make a great Father’s Day gift! Follow this link to purchase a copy.
***Thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah for providing a copy of this book for me to review.
How ’bout you? Did you love Mannix, Quincy, Magnum, Rockford? Who was your favorite TV detective?
About the author: Mark Mynheir was born and raised on the east coast of Central Florida. Like most boys growing up, Mark enjoyed sports, mainly football and martial arts. In 1983, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and went through basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina. After serving four years in the Marines, Mark changed gears and pursued a career in law enforcement. During his career as a police officer, Mark has worked as a narcotics agent, a S.W.A.T. team member, and a homicide detective.
Over seventeen years ago, during a health crisis involving his oldest son, Mark gave his life to Jesus Christ. Shortly after his conversion, he felt God leading him in a new direction: writing. Now he balances dual careers as a police officer and novelist. Mark is married to the love of his life and has three fantastic children. They all currently reside in Central Florida.
If you purchase the book I’m reviewing in this post, you’ll better the quality of life for one of the most oppressed groups in our world today: the Untouchables of India, now called the Dalits.
Thanks to author Randy Singer, who is donating every penny from the sale of his novel False Witness to the Dalit Freedom Network. “Singer was moved by the plight of the Dalit children, struggling to throw off the yoke of oppression and replace it with real freedom and dignity, so he committed to do his part. He believes that ‘no child should be untouchable.‘” Here’s what Singer’s press release shares about the Dalits . . .
“India is a land of civil rights, in theory, but of brutal oppression, in fact—especially for the 165 million members of the Dalits, India’s lowest caste. During Randy Singer’s first trip to India a few years ago, he saw firsthand the systemic oppression of the Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) through the Hindu caste system. Singer was astonished by the fact that the world’s largest democracy was also a breeding ground for the world’s largest human-trafficking operations, that it would allow the exploitation of 15 million children in bonded labor, that it would tolerate temple prostitution and other forms of sexual slavery, and that it would foster economic and social systems that oppress nearly 25 percent of its people.”
“But there is a silver lining. A bond was formed between the Dalits and Christians.
The Dalits began asking the church to help educate their children. Hundreds of schools sprang up, providing thousands of Dalit children with an English-based education (critical to landing good jobs) and newfound self-respect. The Dalits responded with another invitation: ‘If this is the Christian faith, come start a church in our village.’ The result is that millions of Dalits and other Indians are coming to Christ, drawn by a religion that believes the ground is equal at the foot of the cross.”
How can you help? You can visit the Dalit Freedom Network site to read about donating and other types of involvement. Or you can follow this link to purchase Randy’s book, False Witness.
Is the book worth it? My answer is a resounding, yes! In their review of False Witness, Publisher’s Weekly called Randy Singer the Christian John Grisham, and this novel earned a starred review from Booklist.
The tagline for the book hints at the secrets in this fascinating story: “The government can change an identity, but it cannot change a life.”
The action centers around bail bondsman Clark Shealy, his wife Jessica, and law student Jamie Brock. These characters are brought together by Clark’s association with a brilliant Indian Christian man, who created a powerful equation called the Abacus Algorithm. Federal agents and the Chinese Mafia also have a strong interest in the equation. The novel is part thriller and part courtroom drama with the deeper issues of faith, such as, Christian ethics, true justice, and mercy, thrown into the mix.
As a reader, I really appreciated how Randy Singer took a Grisham-esque plot and invested it with Christian characters whose choices reflect eternal values. And I loved seeing people of faith face down realistic contemporary villains with strength of purpose and hope for the future. False Witness and Randy Singer are high on my list of favorites!
Keep in mind that by purchasing False Witness, you’ll be treating yourself to an exciting story and helping folks who sorely need it at the same time. Two for the price of one!